Liverpool (Photo: Ryan Warburton/Unsplash)

"A gift from the Mystery"

Giovanna recounts how the words of Pope Francis at the Audience with CL have generated questions about her understanding of the charism: "The charism is given as a gift."

The work on the Pope's words at the Audience with CL initially generated a lot of questions about my understanding of the charism. Do I really understand the charism of Fr. Giussani? Are my own and my community's limits in living the charism related to the lack of understanding? I realized that the reply to these questions is: yes!. I do not understand, I do not fully grasp the charism, and this is how it needs to be. The charism is given as a gift from the Mystery through Giussani and his people. Who am I to have the ‘right’ and ‘full’ definition of the charism?. What I know is that I met the charism when I was 12 years old; what I saw and understood then is still true as well as has changed these 30 years. I was and I am still shaped by the charism, and what I bring and offer shapes the charism in the reality in which I find myself.

In the little reality of Liverpool, I really wanted to start some charitable work. I waited and prayed. Then a new friend arrived, the headmaster of a high school who joined the movement during the lockdown: Hans. For me, this was the sign. I briefly told him of my availability to offer some of my time in helping out at his school. I did not have a plan, a model, anything; only myself, Hans, and my belonging to the movement. Someone in the local community was very worried as it was not the usual kind of charitable work. Giacomo helped me to not be discouraged or afraid by this fear; he asked me to be simple in this experience and see where this could lead.

My charitable work is to spend a morning a week supporting students with their need to be listened to, but also simply with their school work. I started my first morning by saying hello to Hans, in the first office near the entrance. I prayed to remember that I was there because of this friendship, and the education of the movement. On first day, reality immediately put me to the test. The student support team asked me to help them organize a group about gender identity. That was not what I was expecting but, in that moment, I found myself responding with freedom asking if we could work on identity first. I asked then to consider working on the need of young people to understand the meaning and purpose of their lives. I was there because of a friendship and because of the education that I received through the charism of CL. I was not there to do a job, to prove my skills or to follow the correct standard procedure. I discovered that I was really free.

Later that morning, I spoke briefly with two students that are having trouble because they do not fit the procedure that the school has prepared for them. They asked me If I was coming back the following week and they asked to come and talk to me again. I was very moved that someone was already waiting for something, even from my clumsy attempt.

I went home full of gratitude in recognizing that the charism works through any circumstance and through my limits. I cannot replicate what I lived in Italy in Liverpool, but I can start from the communion with Hans and my community to discover the liberation in following Christ through the charism of CL in every circumstance...even in Liverpool.

Giovanna, Liverpool